MGM // 1994 // 118 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Jonathan Weiss (Retired) // February 6th, 2006
"Buggah. Buggah, buggah, buggah, buggah, bugga, bugaaaaaaaaaah"
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a simple little story that follows a group of friends over 18 months of their lives as they participate in, well, four weddings (just barely) and a funeral.
More specifically it's about charming Englishman, Charles (Hugh Grant), who struggles with his inner commitment-phobe when he meets beautiful American, Carrie (Andie MacDowell), and continues to meet her at, well, four weddings (just barely) and, you guessed it, a funeral.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone, since Four Weddings and a Funeral was incredibly popular in its theatrical run (grossing an astonishing, for its time, $4 million in its opening weekend). It has since been available on VHS, television, and a barebones DVD -- which is to say that it has been seen a whole lot by a whole lot of people, probably a whole lot of times.
Now 12 years later comes the DVD that should have been released the first time around -- The Deluxe Edition -- featuring deleted scenes, a filmmaker's commentary, and behind the scene featurettes. Why now? Who knows -- but the all-powerful double-dipping dollar probably had something to do with it. What isn't questionable is that Four Weddings and a Funeral definitely deserves the deluxe treatment.
Consider this: Hugh Grant was barely known in North America before the release of this film and it made him an international star. After its success with American audiences, director Mike Newell was finally able to branch out into the Hollywood mainstream (Quidditch anyone?) after stints doing American television. Kristen Scott Thomas's star was already on the rise when she accepted the role, but her portrayal of cynical Fiona, a woman struggling with unrequited love issues, cemented her status as one to watch. And Andie MacDowell? Well, after memorable roles in Groundhog Day, Green Card, and sex, lies and videotape managed to survive one of the worst line readings in history ("Oh...is...it...raining? I...didn't...notice) and continue on with her career.
This is the story of a little movie that could and did. Now let's see if they finally did it right on DVD.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to review Four Weddings and a Funeral Deluxe Edition. If there is any reason for this review not to continue as planned, speak now or forever hold your piece.
Whew. Glad that part's over.
Think about it for a second -- speak now or forever hold your piece. Whoa. That is one chilling sentence. Talk about pressure. Here's the thing; you just know that if someone actually did speak up -- with the best intentions in the world of doing what's right -- well let's just say, they would not be the most popular person in the room -- if indeed they make it out alive at all.
Yet in many ways, it is this very last second, nail biting, loophole inserted near the tail end of traditional wedding ceremonies that this movie is all about. Whether it's the close bonds of friendship between all the main characters or the unbreakable bonds of holy matrimony going on around them, when it comes right down to it Four Weddings and a Funeral is about spending your life with people you love. And that's a big chunk of its charm.
This new Deluxe Edition delves into the movie's popularity and long-lasting appeal as only 12 years of hindsight could. The feature-length commentary between director Newell, writer Richard Curtis, and producer Duncan Kenworthy is absolutely brilliant (as our chums across the pond would say). Not only do they give the details, insights, and behind the scenes scoops on every aspect of the film but they do it in the most delightful, charming and entertaining manner (maybe it's their accents). They even acknowledge Andie MacDowell's aforementioned line reading and being the gentlemen they are -- actually defend it!
The rest of the extras, though at times revisiting similar ground to the commentary, are also nice additions. "The Wedding Planners" Documentary (which is really just a featurette) is particularly nice in that most of it appears to have been shot quite recently and includes comments from most of the main players including Mike Newell, Hugh Grant, and Andie MacDowell. Here are some of the insider bits we learn: The film was on an incredibly tight budget and was shot in only 35 days. Hugh was not a shoe-in for the role of Charles -- the writer, Richard Curtis, thought he was too handsome and posh, but finally relented because he was able to deliver the written word the way he had always envisioned it. The dress that Elizabeth Hurley wore for the premiere helped garner more attention for the movie than 1000 publicists could muster. Ian McKellen sent Simon Callow a postcard in which he wrote that the character of Gareth did a hundred times more good for gay people than Philadelphia -- for portraying a gay character that finally dies of something other than AIDS.
All of which is very interesting and entertaining and probably a veritable treasure chest of insider goodness for the Four Weddings and a Funeral fanatic -- but are they absolutely necessary for someone who has never seen the film before (and if you haven't, you better be like twelve years old)?
The answer is no. The movie works completely nicely on its own, thank you. But that doesn't mean that if you own the barebones edition you shouldn't consider double dipping. First of all, it's not really much of a double-dip when you consider the amount of time that has passed since the first pressing. It's not like what happens today when the special edition follows the barebones release by weeks (the scoundrels). Secondly, The Deluxe Edition boasts an HD transfer as well as Dolby 5.1 surround. And finally, it's not like the price tag is going to punch a huge hole in anybody's wallet. This here is one very affordable upgrade. The final decision, of course, is yours, but if you love this film, I feel that it's my duty to speak now or forever hold my piece: this is the version you're going to want until death do you part.
I do. (And I'd do it again too.) Now get ready to catch the bouquet.
Review content copyright © 2006 Jonathan Weiss; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary with Filmmakers
* Deleted Scenes
* "The Wedding Planner" Documentary
* "Four Weddings and a Funeral: In the making" Featurette
* "Two Actors and a Director" Featurette
* Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
* Promotional Spots
* Theatrical Trailer